Saturday, 7 February 2009

VOR: Volvo Ocean Race Takes In-Port Racing to an Olympic Scale

Qingdao - China. Skippers Press Conference for In-port Race, Ian Walker - Green Dragon (pictured), Iker Martinez - Telefonica Blue, Torben Grael Ericsson 4, Ken Read - PUMA Ocean Racing. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

The third in-port race day of the Volvo Ocean Race will feature just four entrants, but will be hotly contested nonetheless. Taking place on the same waters where the Olympic sailing was conducted last August, Saturday's competition features the top four teams on the overall race leaderboard.

Telefónica Blue, the winner of the last two legs of the Volvo Ocean Race, will have Spanish Olympian Iker Martinez at the helm when racing starts at 1300 local time tomorrow. Martinez earned a silver medal at the Games in Qingdao last summer. But, despite spending hundreds of hours on the race course area off Qingdao in the lead-up to the Olympics, he doesn't think he has an advantage over the others.

"We spent a lot of time sailing here to have good speed with our boat and to know about the wind and tides here [ahead of the Games]," he said at a press conference on Friday.

"But I think that with these boats, it's not going to make a big difference. I think this [local knowledge] isn't going to be the most important thing. In these short races, we have to do a lot of manoeuvres, and that's going to make the difference."
Torben Grael/BRA, the skipper of the overall race leader, Ericsson 4, says with the top four teams in the race on the start line, it's anyone's game tomorrow: "It should be an interesting race; any of the teams could win."

The forecast for race time tomorrow (1300 local time / 0500 GMT) is a challenging one for the teams. Very light winds are predicted, perhaps under five knots, and there is also a tidal current to contend with.

"If the current is as bigger factor as some say, and I'm not sure it is, it could be won at the start where you win an end and go to a side," said PUMA skipper Ken Read/USA. "We didn't see a whole lot of current out there yesterday [Thursday], but I need to be a bit more educated on that before I make any conclusions."

On Friday, all four teams took advantage of a practice day for the Race Committee to check out the race course area. Telefónica Blue, Ericsson 4 and PUMA took a couple of practice starts, while Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR), who was only lifted into the water this morning, headed out to the race course area, but didn't sail.

Being the fourth-placed team on the rankings and looking to close the gap with those ahead, as well as enjoying the status of 'home' favourite means the Green Dragon team has every reason in the world to perform well on Saturday. And skipper Ian Walker was looking on the bright side as he assessed his competitors, joking that at least "we're guaranteed a top four finish!"

He's also taken advantage of his friendships within the highly successful British Olympic sailing squad to glean some local knowledge.

"I have a lot of information which we are still looking through, stuff on the tide, but nothing too specific," he said. "The start is always the most important thing."
Two in-port races are scheduled for Saturday, although just one race is required for the day to be scored and count towards the overall rankings. The winning team on the day will earn four points, second place 3.5 points, third place three points and fourth place 2.5 points. The teams not participating in the in-port race (Ericsson 3, Telefónica Black, Delta Lloyd and Team Russia) will not earn any points.

Telefónica Blue Makes Crew Substitution

Qingdao - China. Skippers Press Conference for In-port Race, Ian Walker - Green Dragon, Iker Martinez - Telefonica Blue (pictured), Torben Grael Ericsson 4, Ken Read - PUMA Ocean Racing. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

After consulting with the International Jury: due to injuries to a crew member Telefónica Blue will substitute Pepe Ribes with Javier de la Plaza for tomorrow's in-port race.

Telefónica Blue
1. Iker Martinez ESP - skipper
2. Bouwe Bekking NED - tactician
3. Simon Fisher GBR, strategist
4. Tom Addis AUS - navigator
5. Gabriele Olivo ITA (media crew member)
6. Jonathan Swain RSA
7. Jordi Calafat ESP
8. Xabier Fernandez ESP
9. Pablo Arrarte ESP
10. Javier de la Plaza
11. Michael Pammenter RSA
12. Jorge Ondo ESP
13. Romolo Ranieri ITA

Racing is scheduled to start at 1300 local time in Qingdao, 0500 GMT.

Overall Leaderboard
1. Ericsson 4: 45 points
2. Telefónica Blue: 41.5 points
3. PUMA: 38 points
4. Green Dragon: 27.5 points
5. Ericsson 3: 24 points
6. Telefónica Black: 21 points
7. Delta Lloyd: 12 points
8. Team Russia: 10.5 points
** Ericsson 3 has suspended racing in leg four. If Ericsson 3 finishes the leg, the team will earn four points for a fifth place finish. If Ericsson 3 retires, the team will earn two points as a DNF.

Leg Four Finishing Order Qingdao
1. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 8 points
2. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) 7 points
3. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael) 6 points
4. Green Dragon (Ian Walker) 5 points

Volvo Ocean Race

No comments: